GCTE Preview: See You in Athens!


The Georgia Council of Teachers of English (GCTE) conference in Athens, GA is in just a few short weeks, and this year feels particularly special since I have so many of my colleagues presenting this year too. I cannot entirely pinpoint why I wanted to ensure more of the ELA teachers at my school presented this year, but I know part of the inspiration came from the stellar work they were doing. I have always, no matter the setting, worked with phenomenal ELA teachers. My current school is no exception, so when the time came, I sent an email encouraging several of my compatriots to submit a proposal. Thankfully, most all accepted the challenge, submitted a proposal, and were accepted! In today’s post, I will preview many of the presentations/workshops my colleagues and I will be showing on the weekend of February 9 and 10 as well as why you should check them out! For anyone interested, it is not too late to go to GCTE this year. Go here for conference information. Continue reading


Revisiting Banksy (Again): Leveraging Visual Literacy & Documentary to Promote Critical Thinking


As part of working on a publication that comes out later this year, I worked closely with my colleague and friend, Glenn Chance, in his classroom where he trusted me to help him implement work with visual literacy and connecting it to the work he was doing with memoir. Since I currently do not have my own ELA classroom, I truly appreciate Glenn allowing me to invade his planning and class time. There were several goals of this project and unit, but in today’s post I am only going to concentrate on how we developed visual literacy skills for students and how we partnered them with both memoir, author’s purpose, and documentary. Inside the post there is a breakdown of what we did and or reflections on those actions from our planning and class time in hopes what is shared can help you in your classroom or at the very least continue the conversation for the value of the explicit instruction of visual literacy. For anyone attending GCTE this year, we’ll be presenting this information there as well. Continue reading

GCTE Here We Come!: Sharing Innovative Approaches to Teaching ELA


I realized the other day that I had not posted for nearly a month. While I intended to share my latest attempt at supporting my work-based learning students a few weeks ago, a scheduling conflict caused me to cancel my workshop with them, meaning I have been working with most students one-on-one through their resume-building process. I do intend to have a real update there, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some great news and hopefully drum up some interest of fellow ELA teachers in the state of Georgia.

Last night myself and several of my colleagues found out we were approved to present at this year’s GCTE (Georgia Council of Teachers of English) Conference in Athens, GA on February 9-10!

What makes this particularly special this year is rather than going solo as I have in many years past to present, I invited several of my ELA colleagues to join forces with me to put in multiple proposals that showcase the extraordinary work we do with students on our campus. A sincere goal of mine this year was to bring my school to the foreground of what innovative and best practices look like in the modern high school setting, and I was so thrilled to see my colleagues to accept my invitation. Because of their leap of faith, Lanier High School will have 7 ELA teachers represented in 4 great presentations during the weekend. I do sincerely hope fellow ELA teachers in the state can join us. The topics we’ll be exploring include:

  • “Exiting Through the Gift Shop: Enhancing Non-Fiction Instruction through Banksy, Documentary, and Memoir”
  • “Formative Assessment with Seesaw
  • “Innovating Shakespeare: A Collaborative, Technology-Rich Approach to Introducing the Bard”
  • “Transforming Teaching Through a Blended Classroom”

We hope to see you there!

Teacher Innovation #10: “Innovation as Self: A Teacher Reflects on Innovation as a Pedagogical Philosophy Shift”

Adobe Spark (10)

Post #10 is from Dr. Kim Foster, a practicing ELA teacher with nearly a decade of classroom experience. I met Dr. Foster when we both started our doctoral studies in 2013 and from day one, she was both a good friend and someone who challenged my own intellectual aptitude as a graduate student. (I grew to be a better doc student because of her; although, she is too humble to agree to that.) Dr. Foster has my utmost respect and is the embodiment of what it means to foster (no pun intended) caring relationships in the classroom and to have a growth mindset. Her post reflects on her evolution in pedagogical philosophy and pedagogy in the classroom over the course of her career and particularly the last four years of research. Much like myself, Dr. Foster experienced a seismic shift in her pedagogical approach. If you want delve into culturally relevant pedagogy and a critical approach to teaching in the classroom, you do not want to miss reading this post. Even if you’re not a teacher, this post highlights how our best teachers grow and change student lives.

Previous Entries in the Series: Post #1 // Post #2 // Post #3 // Post #4 // Post #5 // Post #6 // Post #7 // Post #8 // Post #9

By Dr. Kim Foster

When Kyle asked me to participate in this “innovation” series, I immediately said yes because Kyle is awesome, and I love to write about my classroom. However, the more I pondered on my teaching, the more I concluded, “What I do in the classroom is really not that super innovative…what does it mean to be innovative?” Well, I googled it because that is how we find quick answers these days. Google claims that innovating is “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” As I mulled over my thoughts, what I determined is that my mindset as a teacher has been in a process of innovation for the past four years. In this post, I will share about an unanticipated shift in my pedagogical approach that came about when I started a doctoral program (how I met Kyle) to learn more about how to teach more effectively, and what I gained can not be quantified by insignificant numbers or qualified by mere words. I am the result of innovation, and I hope that all teachers can find encouragement in allowing yourself to be refined, revived, and renewed in ways that you may never know that you need. I start with a reminiscent scene from ten years ago during my student teaching; I then share a brief description of the knowledge that sparked my journey. I move to a reflection from my dissertation research; and I end with a reflection as I move into my tenth year of teaching. Continue reading

Teacher Innovation #8: “True Collaboration: The Magic of Planning, Designing, and Teaching Alongside Colleagues”

Adobe Spark (8)

The 8th post of my Summer Teacher Innovation Series comes from another ELA colleague, mentor, and friend, Nadine Bell. Nadine has been teaching nearly 30 years and shows zero signs of slowing down! I had the pleasure of working closely with her the last two years, working alongside her on the 9th grade ELA course team and as regular collaborator for academy-related planning. Nadine is everything you would want from a veteran teacher–knowledgeable, collaborative, wise, and reflective. She also breaks all the negative stereotypes often unfairly lobbed at veteran educators. As you will read in today’s post, she hates the idea of her practice being left to stagnate, so when you come to her with a harebrained scheme of how to start changing a few teaching paradigms in your school building, well, she says ‘yes!’ The practice Nadine shares today is hopefully the shape of what is to come in our schoolhouse where teachers bring classes together to co-teach content based on those teachers’ strengths. I am very excited to share this post. Enjoy!

Previous Series Entries: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4 // Part 5 // Part 6 // Part 7

by Nadine Bell

Jeff Spence is the former COO and president of Innovolt, a specialty company who patented intelligent electronics management technology, and current CEO of NexDefense, and is an expert on facilitating collaboration as a business model in the corporate sector. As I listened to Spence share his partnering with Gwinnett County Public Schools to introduce this model into the classroom, I couldn’t help but think this is what should be happening in the co-taught setting (the least restrictive environment for a special education student where the general education teacher works with a special education resource teacher to meet the needs of a student(s) Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). However, anyone who has been in the classroom for any length of time and had the opportunity to have a co-taught class knows that typically, at least at the high school level, the general education teacher provides the instruction and the special education teacher is often simply a behavior monitor at least and at best a teacher who will initiate small group instruction as a form of remediation or ensure compliance with small group testing.  Of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking, seldom is the co-taught classroom one of true collaboration. Continue reading